A federal judge in Colorado sanctioned two lawyers who challenged the 2020 election results.
He called their claims "fantastical" and "the stuff of which violent insurrections are made."
The lawyers had asked for $160 billion in damages because Joe Biden won the presidential election.
A federal judge in Colorado has sanctioned attorneys who brought a lawsuit that challenged the results of the 2020 presidential election and sought $160 billion in damages, calling their conspiratorial claims "the stuff of which violent insurrections are made."
The Wednesday ruling from US Magistrate Judge N. Reid Neureiter concludes that the lawsuit "was filed in bad faith" and orders the attorneys, Ernest J. Walker and Gary D. Fielder, to pay the opposing lawyers' expenses and fees. The order does not bar them from practicing law.
"This lawsuit was filed with a woeful lack of investigation into the law and (under the circumstances) the facts," Neureiter wrote. "The lawsuit put into or repeated into the public record highly inflammatory and damaging allegations that could have put individuals' safety in danger. Doing so without a valid legal basis or serious independent personal investigation into the facts was the height of recklessness."
The lawsuit was first filed on December 22, more than a month after then-President Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. Though it was filed in Colorado, the lawsuit named as defendants the governors and secretaries of state for swing states which Trump lost to now-President Joe Biden.
The plaintiffs - a smattering of Trump supporters who said in declarations that they believed the election results were rigged, were upset their Facebook posts were deleted, and didn't want to get vaccinated against COVID-19 - also named Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, Priscilla Chan, and Dominion Voting Systems as defendants.
Neureiter's ruling criticized the attorneys in scathing terms for purporting to "represent 160 million American registered voters," seeking to nullify "actions of multiple state legislatures, municipalities, and state courts," and then demand a "nominal amount of $1,000 per registered voter" in damages, which would amount to "a figure is greater than the annual GDP of Hungary."
"In short, this was no slip-and-fall at the local grocery store," Neureiter wrote. "Albeit disorganized and fantastical, the Complaint's allegations are extraordinarily serious and, if accepted as true by large numbers of people, are the stuff of which violent insurrections are made."
The lawyers' 'massive cut-and-paste job' recycled claims from other failed lawsuits
The judge noted that sanctions were warranted because the attorneys did not bring the lawsuit based on the claims of the people they represented.
"It must also be noted that this was not a client-driven lawsuit. As Plaintiffs' counsel, Mr. Fielder, conceded at the July 16 hearing, the lawsuit was his idea," Neureiter wrote. "Mr. Fielder and Mr. Walker were not relying on information from the named Plaintiffs to construct the suit or for any of the substantive factual allegations."
Neureiter said Walker and Fielder acted improperly by failing to research any factual basis for their claims that the 2020 election results were rigged, and by bringing a claim in Colorado against state officials in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Wisconsin.
Neureiter also criticized the lawyers' "massive cut-and-paste job." They recycled claims in their lawsuit from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton and Trump-affiliated lawyer Sidney Powell, both of whom failed in their own lawsuits challenging the election results.
The judge also criticized them for uncritically including a false Trump tweet about "Dominion deleting 2.7 million trump votes nationwide." Neureiter wrote that when asked in a hearing about including the claim, Fielder's only justification was that Trump was the president.
"Under the circumstances of this case, with this election, with this insurrection, with the on-going threats to election officials and company employees, including in a federal filing as if it were true such an inflammatory and damaging allegation, without any attempt at verification, merely because the out-going President had said it, was reckless and did not represent a reasonable inquiry under the circumstances," Neureiter wrote.
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